"Aisling of Bruadair's quest to restore her country's rightful rulers to their throne has been long and difficult. Now, after a lifetime of lies, she's confronted with an unexpected truth: Bruadair's salvation may lie within her. But the path to harnessing her newly discovered magical gifts threatens to lead her back through a past that may well spell her death. With his own magic restored, Runach of Ceangail has come to terms with the fact that the simple life he once coveted is no longer an option. Instead, he is determined to help Aisling fulfill her quest, even if his part of the bargain includes facing evil mages with power far greater than his own. But once they reach Bruadair, Runach and Aisling discover that nothing is as it seems, and not only must they accept their past, they must also embrace their destiny-before the enemies drawing near succeed in extinguishing all the light in the world..."--
Aisling of Bruadair's quest to restore her country's rightful rulers to their throne has been long and difficult. Now, after a lifetime of lies, she's confronted with an unexpected truth: Bruadair's salvation may lie within her. But the path to harnessing her newly discovered magical gifts threatens to lead her back through a past that may well spell her death. With his own magic restored, R-nach of Ceangail has come to terms with the fact that the simple life he once coveted is no longer an option. Instead, he is determined to help Aisling fulfill her quest.
Lynn Kurland is the New York Times bestselling author of numerous novels and novellas including the Nine Kingdom series, the de Piaget Family series, and the McLeod Family series.
Praise for the Novels of the Nine Kingdoms: "Fascinating...[An] enchanting narrative."--Kirkus Reviews
"Beautifully written."--Romance Reviews Today
"Kurland deftly mixes innocent romance with adventure in a tale that will leave readers eager for the next installment."--Publishers Weekly
"This is a terrific romantic fantasy."--Midwest Book Review
"A superbly crafted, sweetly romantic tale of adventure and magic."--Booklist
Praise for the Novels of the Nine Kingdoms: "Fascinating…[An] enchanting narrative."- Kirkus Reviews "Beautifully written."- Romance Reviews Today "Kurland deftly mixes innocent romance with adventure in a tale that will leave readers eager for the next installment."- Publishers Weekly "This is a terrific romantic fantasy."- Midwest Book Review "A superbly crafted, sweetly romantic tale of adventure and magic."- Booklist
One The palace of Inntrig, seat of power in the country of Cothromaiche, was a very quiet place. It was difficult, perhaps, to be home to the sort of magic that flowed through the hills and dales of such a country, an unsettling magic that was rarely talked about and guarded jealously. More difficult still was providing shelter for the souls that inhabited that country, souls who understood that magic and possessed the means to use it. In the end, it was no doubt best, if you were any sort of sentient thing, to just keep your opinions to yourself and let those with the ability to split the world in half with their spells continue on their way unconversed with. It didn''t help matters any that Cothromaiche found itself so close to that most secretive of countries, Bruadair. As the residents of Cothromaiche had discovered, things tended to seep across the border, things that were perhaps not capable of being regulated by sharp-eyed customs agents and burly border guards. Dreams. Strange magic. Tales that stretched back into the mists of time so far that their authors could no longer be named. Those were the sorts of things that respectable library doors simply couldn''t bring themselves to discuss in polite company. Aisling of Bruadair stood in front of a pair of those mute doors and wished that the fixtures in the palace had been perhaps a bit less restrained. Though she wasn''t sure anything at that point would have put her at ease, she might have at least had someone to converse with about her troubles. Or something. In Cothromaiche, she supposed the distinction didn''t matter. Of course, there were two souls on the other side of those doors who would have been more than happy to discuss all manner of things pertaining to her present business, but considering who those two lads were, she didn''t think she wanted to hear what they might have to say. She closed her eyes and wondered how it was that a simple weaver from an obscure village in a country shrouded in secrecy and menace could possibly find herself garnering the notice of any but a well-dressed gentleman who might want cloth woven especially for him. Yet there she was, standing in a Cothromiachian king''s palace, terrified to face her future and wondering if it might be possible to run away before anyone noticed. She wasn''t quite sure how she''d gotten from where she''d been to where she was at present, but she couldn''t deny that a book had been the start of all her troubles. She shivered. She''d owned but one book, and somehow purchasing it had led to being befriended by the peddler who had sold it to her, then subsequently being sent on a quest by that same peddler to look for a mercenary to save her country. What had happened to her along that journey was unbelievable enough that it likely should have found itself only between the covers of that book. Then again, her lone book had been a faithful listing of the military strictures of Scrymgeour Weger. Where her tale belonged was between the covers of a book on fables and myths. She looked at the massive doors in front of her. She would have put her hand on the wood to see what it might be willing to reveal about what sorts of books on fables and myths the library contained, but she knew there was no point. The finely carved doors were resolutely silent. If there happened to be a hint of a sshh offered as a suggestion, she could understand. She also supposed she could have been imagining that. That was a thought she found herself clinging to more often than not of late. She shifted a bit and decided that perhaps the wall near those doors wouldn''t mind if she leaned a shoulder against its sturdy self and caught her breath. She''d been struggling with that sort of thing for the past three days, since she had been rescued from an underground river that wended its way under Inntrig and no doubt served the palace gardener very well in his hothouse labors. The rescue had been timely given that she''d been on the verge of drowning. A day or two of simply eating and sleeping had done wonders for her body, but not as much for her mind. If she''d thought she would find peace and respite from the unrelenting realities of her life in Inntrig''s rather silent halls, she''d been thoroughly mistaken. Having the time to think had left her with more questions than answers, and the few answers she''d gotten were ones she hadn''t wanted. She didn''t want the rest of those necessary answers, but she supposed she would have to have them just the same. No sense in putting off the inevitable any longer. She reached out and reluctantly put her hand on the wood. It didn''t even shush her. It simply stood there, apparently too polite to mention that on its other side lay hundreds of books with potentially alarming contents. Unfortunately, books weren''t the only unsettling things inside that library. It also contained a gracious host with details about countries she didn''t particularly want to visit and the grandson of an elven king with plots and schemes on his mind. The door shifted under her hand as only a solid wooden door could, startling her out of her unproductive thoughts. She moved away, expecting to find someone coming out of the library, but realized it had just been the door acting on its own. Perhaps it knew something she didn''t. She frowned at it, but its only response was to open soundlessly. Caught, and so easily too. She sighed, then walked forward only to pause in spite of herself. She had seen her share of libraries over the past several fortnights which she supposed made her a decent judge of their quality. She''d seen collections of books gathered in a university, in a trio of palaces, and in a building so large she''d been almost frightened by its height. But in none of those places had she had the overwhelming urge to pull a random book off the shelf and curl up in a chair to simply spend the afternoon reading for pleasure. The walls in front of her were covered with shelves that stretched from floor to ceiling; the floors were covered with lovely and obviously expensive carpets. The furniture was heavy and dark, upholstered with leather for the most part. There were either long tables ready to accept large numbers of books or smaller tables set next to chairs, obviously set there to support goblets of wine and plates of strengthening edibles. The surprising part of the room was the light. There were windows along one wall, true, but they couldn''t possibly bring relief to all the nooks and crannies she could see. She supposed the lamps were lit by otherworldly means, though she could see no spells there. Obviously there was magic in Cothromaiche that she simply couldn''t recognize. She did recognize the two men sitting at a table near the windows, though, poring over books. Or, rather, arguing companionably about what they were reading. She leaned against a doorframe that didn''t immediately tell her to shove off and supposed the time for avoiding the two of them had come to an end. She had managed it fairly well over the past couple of days, abandoning them in the library while she spent her time spinning, walking in the garden, or simply pacing through the passageways and attempting to convince herself not to up and bolt for points unknown. Not that she ever would have managed the last, she supposed. Too much had happened to her for her to simply vanish into some obscure village and allow the world to continue on its course unchallenged, though perhaps it had been a single realization that had changed everything for her. She had magic. Worse still, those two men sitting there knew it. One of the men who sat there with a tranquil expression on his face and the sun glinting off his pale blond hair would have only listened to her make excuses as to why she needed to flee and said nothing in response. Then again, that was apparently what Soill